Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Deflate-Gate Is Not A Story (But Yet It Is...)

I'm sure there was a time in America when winners were celebrated for winning in an impressive fashion.

That's sadly not the case today.  There always has to be an excuse to explain why the losing team was not good enough to win.

That is the case with the allegations made by the Indianapolis Colts that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated the footballs they used in Sunday's AFC Championship Game - a contest won by the Patriots 45-7 - which is now bringing the attention of the national media to the doorsteps of Gillette Stadium looking for someone to blame.

The person from within the Patriots organization who is getting the most criticism is head coach Bill Belichick.  There are already people calling for Belichick to be suspended for the Super Bowl or for him to be fired even before all the facts of the story have come out.

What we know as of this morning is that 11 of the 12 footballs were shown to be inflated less than NFL rules require.  The Colts brought the balls to the attention of officials during the game on Sunday after linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass and felt the ball was unusual.

The NFL's investigation has determined that almost all of the footballs provided by the Patriots were inflated less than they should be by rule.  The investigation is now looking into who is responsible for the balls being less than the required 14-15 ounces.

There has been no mention of a similar investigation into the Colts footballs.  With weather being a possible reason the footballs were under inflated, it would clearly make sense to evaluate the Colts footballs for comparison.

The questions should not be "Who did it?" or "Will Belichick be fired?" but instead be "Who cares?" and "Why are we wasting time on this?"

This is not a big deal and NFL quarterbacks routinely "doctor" the football to their liking.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a former Super Bowl and regular season MVP, has come out saying he likes to inflate the balls more than the NFL allows to help his grip and gets upset when the referees take air out of the ball.

Should Rodgers be stripped of his MVP awards?  Absolutely not.

In that article, Rodgers mentions that Peyton Manning has lobbied the NFL to allow the footballs to be handled by players before the game.  If Manning is manipulating the footballs he uses in games should he forfeit all of his trophies?  Again, no way.

Peyton's younger brother Eli Manning had a feature done on his handling of the footballs the Giants use for their games by the New York Times in November 2013.  It provides explicit details of how Manning preps the balls to be used for games so he is comfortable with the feel of the ball.  The NFL should not overturn both of his Super Bowl wins to the Patriots because of this.

Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano issued a series of tweets last night stating that the footballs are inspected inside but the pressure of the ball changes when moved outside.  Gano, after realizing he was inadvertently defending the Patriots, issued more tweets saying he was only talking of his experiences.  The point is that the Patriots may not have even intentionally deflated the balls.

Football is a sport and there is always a certain amount of gamesmanship in any sport.  It's not like Belichick implanted GPS sensors into the balls to make sure they found their way into the hands of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman off of Tom Brady's passes.

Someone - Brady? - likely handled the footballs prior to the game to make them more to Brady's liking.  That should be the end of it.

With the Patriots and Belichick it's never that easy.  Back in 2007 the NFL fined Belichick $500,000 and fined the Patriots $250,000 and took the team's first round draft choice when it was revealed that the team was videotaping opponents defensive signals.

All of a sudden, "Spygate" was the reason why the Patriots had been so successful under Belichick. That ignored the fact that every NFL team employed scouts to "steal" opposing teams signals. Belichick and the Patriots may have been the only team taping opponents signals but the idea that they were alone in doing it is absurd.

Earlier this year, former Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, now with the Buffalo Bills, said that the Patriots were in violation of NFL rules for misreporting injuries.  The NFL typically fines teams for these offenses, like the Bills and Redskins were back in 2012, but it's not a major offense.  Yet, when it was the Patriots and Belichick involved, it became a major story for a few days.

Sadly, people today loathe success and instead of finding ways to emulate another's winning ways they look to find ways to tear them down.  Belichick has not had a losing season since 2000, is leading his team to its sixth Super Bowl since 2001, and instead of being applauded as the best modern day coach in football is vilified for nonsensical things like a football weighing an ounce less than it should or taping opponents signals instead of watching them and taking notes like everyone else.

Hopefully this story will die down by the end of the week.  It's a shame that the media and the fans are focusing on such an inconsequential action that may not have even been done by the Patriots (if you believe the weather was a factor).

The Patriots-Seahawks match-up in the Super Bowl - the two best teams in football - should be the focus with the expectation of a (hopefully) great game on February 1.

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